The top three seeds at 165 lbs Evan Wick (center), Keegan O'Toole (left), and Alex Marinelli (Photos courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
The 2022 NCAA DI Wrestling Championships are less than a week away! In a few short days, 330 wrestlers will make the trek to Detroit, Michigan, with hopes of a national title on their minds. In addition, fan seating will be at 100% capacity for the first time since Pittsburgh in 2019. Now it's in an area that hasn't hosted nationals since 2007 and even that tournament was not held downtown; it was way out in Auburn Hills.
Before the action on the mat starts, InterMat will go through each individual bracket and highlight the favorites, top matches to watch, and much more.
Here are the weight classes already released:
125 lb preview
133 lb preview
141 lb preview
149 lb preview
157 lb preview
We'll move on to the 165 lbers as we release two of our weight class previews for the next five days:
The Top Seed: Evan Wick (Cal Poly)
In his first year back in his home state Evan Wick has thrived, turning in his finest regular season to date. Wick was a two-time NCAA All-American for Wisconsin, placing third and fourth, in 2018 and 2019, respectively, before earning NWCA first-team AA honors in 2020. He took an Olympic redshirt year in 2020-21 and then decided to transfer out of Madison. Back on the west coast, Wick has taken his game to another level and heads to Detroit unbeaten and is the first Mustang wrestler to earn the top seed since Chad Mendes in 2008.
So far in 2020-21, Wick has three wins over the defending champion at this weight, Shane Griffith. They met at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, in dual competition, and in the Pac-12 finals. In addition to Griffith, Wick has wins over Big Ten runner-up, Cam Amine, MAC champion Izzak Olejnik, and All-American Anthony Valencia. Even so, Wick doesn't have much recent history against the rest of the primary contenders at 165 lbs. That could lead to some interesting matchups. A potential meeting with #3 Alex Marinelli is interesting because the two clashed a handful of times while he was at Wisconsin. Wick took the first meeting, but Marinelli got the next four, each being close matches. But a lot has changed since they met early in the 2019-20 season.
Should Wick come out of this weight class unscathed, he should receive significant consideration for the Hodge Trophy. Obviously, Gable Steveson is a considerable favorite to repeat as the winner, but Wick has a good case. He's racked up bonus points in over 60% of his bouts and would add some high-quality victories to his ledger, no matter how the bracket unfolds.
The Contenders: #2 Keegan O'Toole (Missouri); #3 Alex Marinelli (Iowa); #4 Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin); #5 Shane Griffith (Stanford); #6 Cameron Amine (Michigan); #7 Carson Kharchla (Ohio State)
The Conference Champs:
ACC: #10 Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh)
Big 12: #2 Keegan O'Toole (Missouri)
Big Ten: #3 Alex Marinelli (Iowa)
EIWA: #8 Phil Conigliaro (Harvard)
MAC: #11 Izzak Olejnik (Northern Illinois)
Pac-12: #1 Evan Wick (Cal Poly)
SoCon: #22 Rodrick Mosley (Gardner-Webb)
Top First-Round Matches
#12 Zach Hartman (Bucknell) vs. #21 Thomas Bullard (NC State)
#13 Julian Ramirez (Cornell) vs. #20 Will Formato (Appalachian State)
#14 Josh Ogunsanya (Columbia) vs. #19 Justin McCoy (Virginia)
#6 Cameron Amine (Michigan) vs. #27 Bubba Wilson (Nebraska)
#15 Austin Yant (Northern Iowa) vs. #18 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)
Despite the starpower at this weight, the preseason and regular season favorite in many fans' minds has been second-seeded Keegan O'Toole. As a true freshman last year, O'Toole went 19-1 and claimed third place at this weight. In 2021-22, O'Toole has yet to lose and asserted himself as one of the most enjoyable wrestlers to watch at the weight (or any weight). O'Toole has six falls on the year and bonus points in three-quarters of his appearances.
One of the veterans of this weight, looking to go out on top, is Iowa's Alex Marinelli. Marinelli won his fourth Big Ten title and looks rejuvenated after a midseason loss to Carson Kharchla. A title for Marinelli would help dispel the reputation of not succeeding at nationals, despite coming in as the top-seed two different times (he was also seeded 1st in 2020). In each of his last two NCAA appearances, Marinelli has fallen to the eventual champion in the quarterfinals.
The most recent wrestler to upset Marinelli in the quarters was Shane Griffith last season. Griffith's magical run to a national title helped â€œSave Stanford Wrestling.â€ This year, as the favorite, Griffith suffered an early loss to Julian Ramirez and relinquished the top spot at 165. Since then, his only other losses are to Wick. Fortunately or unfortunately, he may have the opportunity to right those wrong, but meeting Wick in the semis. Of course, standing in his way is the fourth seed, Dean Hamiti. This year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Hamiti has shown fearlessness with his ability to fire off shots at a high clip. I'm thinking that could give Griffith some openings.
This weight class is as loaded as any of the ten. It has contenders all over the place. The top-half has All-American Zach Hartman (Bucknell) in a tough first-round match with Thomas Bullard. Also from the EIWA is the conference champ, Phil Conigliaro (Harvard) in the eighth slot and Ramirez as the 13th seed. It also has some Big 12 flavor with the conference runner-up, Peyton Hall (West Virginia), seeded ninth and the league's 2021 champion, Luke Weber (North Dakota State), as the 16.
The bottom half of the bracket has more Big Ten flavor with Kharchla and Amine. The Buckeye was seeded first at the Big Ten Championships, but was knocked off by Amine in the semis. Also in the mix, are 2021 NCAA runner-up, Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh), and MAC champ Olejnik.
Quadrant to Watch: The last quadrant on the bottom half of the bracket. Three of the eight wrestlers are returning All-Americans (Wentzel, Valencia, O'Toole). Bracketing certainly did the second-seeded O'Toole no favors here. He could face either a much-improved Austin Yant or Valencia in the Round of 16. There's a possibility that O'Toole seeds Wentzel in the quarters. The Panther senior is responsible for O'Toole's only collegiate loss, in the 2021 NCAA semis. But, before that rematch could take place, Wentzel would have to get by Kharchla. In mid-December, Kharchla and Wentzel met and it was the Buckeye who took a one-point decision.
Darkhorse All-American Contender: #16 Luke Weber (North Dakota State)
Last year, Weber was the Big 12 champion and earned the ninth seed at his first NCAA Tournament. He acquitted himself well and came within a match of placing. This time around, he's dropped a few more matches as the weight class has gotten tougher. Even so, Weber will still be a tough out for anyone in this bracket. For him to go deep into this bracket, he may have to reverse his fortunes against Austin Yant, someone who has beaten him twice in close contests.
Extreme (+20 seed) Darkhorse All-American Contender: #27 Bubba Wilson (Nebraska)
Typically, you'd expect a sixth-seeded Big Ten runner-up to roll over the #27 seed in the opening round. But, looking at their record, Bubba Wilson actually owns a win this year over Cam Amine. Wilson did not earn an automatic qualifying slot for the Big Ten, but stole a spot by finishing sixth at the conference meet. His recent win over Amine gives him a mental edge that most 27th seeds likely don't have at this time. Not only that, he has wrestled better towards the end of the year and his talent isn't indicative of his 13-12 record for the year.
#1 Evan Wick (Cal Poly) vs. #9 Peyton Hall (West Virginia)
#5 Shane Griffith (Stanford) vs. #4 Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin)
#3 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. #6 Cameron Amine (Michigan)
#7 Carson Kharchla (Ohio State) vs. #2 Keegan O'Toole (Missouri)
#1 Evan Wick (Cal Poly) vs. #5 Shane Griffith (Stanford)
#3 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. #2 Keegan O'Toole (Missouri)
1st) Keegan O'Toole (Missouri)
2nd) Evan Wick (Cal Poly)
3rd) Shane Griffith (Stanford)
4th) Alex Marinelli (Iowa)
5th) Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin)
6th) Carson Kharchla (Ohio State)
7th) Cameron Amine (Michigan)
8th) Peyton Hall (West Virginia)
Round of 12 Finishers: #10 Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh); #19 Justin McCoy (Virginia); #14 Josh Ogunsanya (Columbia); #8 Phil Conigliaro (Harvard)
Consolation Round of 16: #18 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State); #11 Izzak Olejnik (Northern Illinois); #12 Zach Hartman (Bucknell); #15 Austin Yant (Northern Iowa)